Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pilot denied $27M verdict: Glasair RG Super 11S, N333HK, accident occurred September 03, 2010 near Lake Elmo Airport (21D), Washington County, Minnesota

Mark Kedrowski puts a gel sleeve on his leg before walking his therapy dog, Enzo, in White Bear Lake on September 6, 2017. In the background, right, is art by his 6-year-old son, Beckett. Kedrowski, a pilot, was nearly killed in a plane crash seven years ago near the Lake Elmo airport.



On the Friday before Labor Day in 2010, Mark Kedrowski’s airplane fell from the sky.

Kedrowski had just taken off from the Lake Elmo Airport, flying solo to a friend’s cabin in northern Minnesota, when his Glasair Super II-RG single-engine airplane banked sharply to the right and crashed into a field of soybeans.

Passersby rushed to the site, about a half-mile north of the runway, and peeled back pieces of the smashed plane to free the pilot.

Kedrowski was flown by helicopter to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, which would become his home for the next two months.

He suffered a permanent brain injury. Both feet were partially severed; his left leg had to be amputated below the knee. He broke every bone in his face. His left side was paralyzed. He underwent more than 50 surgeries, including two seven-hour surgeries on his face. He spent four weeks in a coma.

“I don’t remember any of it,” said Kedrowski, 46, of White Bear Lake. “Even after I woke up from the coma, I wasn’t lucid for another four weeks after that. They said I’m one of two or three miracles at Regions.”


First-responders work to save pilot Mark Kedrowski, who nearly died when his plane crashed just a few minutes after he took off from Lake Elmo Airport on Sept. 3, 2010. 
(Courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office) 


At the time of the crash, Kedrowski, who owned a software-development company in St. Paul, was an experienced pilot who had logged more than 650 flying hours. He used his plane to commute to consulting jobs in Dallas, Cincinnati, New York and New Orleans. He had often flown to his friend’s cabin in Pine River, Minn., where he was headed the afternoon of the crash.

According to weather reports, visibility was clear and wind speed was 19 knots, gusting to 28 knots, when Kedrowski took off about 4 p.m.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was due to pilot error. Kedrowski failed “to maintain control of the airplane during takeoff with gusty wind conditions, which resulted in a collision with terrain,” according to the report filed in June 2011.

Kedrowski and his legal team dispute the NTSB claims. They say the crash happened after the plane’s engine failed because of a defective fuel pump.

“It had a leaking valve, so all the fuel wasn’t being delivered to the engine,” Kedrowski said. “I told the first-responder (at the crash scene) that I was losing power, and I was trying to return to the airport.”

In December 2012, Kedrowski sued the designer of the fuel pump, Lycoming Engines, and its manufacturer, Kelly Aerospace Power Systems.

After a lengthy trial in early 2016, a Ramsey County jury found the companies at fault and awarded Kedrowski $27.7 million.

But six months later, Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann awarded judgment to Lycoming and dismissed Kedrowski’s complaint with prejudice. Guthmann wrote in his order that the court erred in dismissing Lycoming’s objections to an expert witness for Kedrowski.

Among the issues the judge raised: the expert witness admitted he had never before evaluated or tested an engine-driven fuel pump like the one in Kedrowski’s airplane; the expert witness offered no scientifically reliable explanation for why the fuel pump had supplied fuel to the airplane’s engine “for 312 hours without any reported problems on take-off, during climb or in the air”; and the expert said the airplane was capable of flight “despite the existence of defects in the fuel pump.”

Kedrowski’s attorneys have filed an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

At trial, Lycoming officials denied responsibility, saying Kedrowski lost control of the plane. Daniel Haws, a St. Paul lawyer serving as local counsel for Lycoming Engines, said last week that because of the appeal, he could not comment on the case.

Kelly Aerospace Power Systems filed for bankruptcy just before trial and the case proceeded against Lycoming.


On his living room wall, Mark Kedrowski has photos of himself in the Turtleman Triathlon in 2004.


WINDSURFING, THEN FLYING

Kedrowski, the youngest of three children, grew up in Maplewood and Lake Elmo. At Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, he played soccer and tennis, ran track and was an all-state Alpine skier.

“He was a great athlete, a wonderful athlete,” said his father, Len Kedrowski, former CFO of Andersen Corp. “Everything he did, he excelled at.”

After graduating from Hill-Murray in 1989, he headed to Western State University in Gunnison, Colo., where he majored in communications and graduated in 1993.

While at the university, he took up windsurfing, competing in races around the country. In 1999, he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I liked the freedom and the wind and the water — just the flow of things,” Mark Kedrowski said. “There’s a lot of athleticism to it. You have to be strong but agile.”

He practiced windsurfing on White Bear Lake every chance he got. “I knew every corner of this lake,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to live on it.”

After the Olympic trials, Kedrowski, a longtime fan of the Microsoft Flight Simulator video game, took up flying.

“I was looking for a nice happy pursuit that would keep me challenged,” he said. “Piloting was fun because of the mental challenge that goes around it, and all the regulations and technical aspects of it were fascinating to me.”

Said Len Kedrowski: “He took care of things, so when he wanted to become a pilot, I didn’t have any doubts about him doing it.”

Len and Mark Kedrowski started a software company called BlueEarth Internet in 1996; Mark Kedrowski bought out his father in 2003.

Mark Kedrowski and his first wife, Masako, have two sons: Kaito, 12, and Kento, 9. They were separated at the time of the crash and divorced about a year later. He and his second wife, Jeri Novalany, have a son, Beckett, 6; the couple divorced in 2016.

The boys spend Tuesday and Thursday nights and every other weekend with him; their artwork decorates the walls of his apartment.

He lives with Enzo, a rambunctious 8-month-old yellow Labrador who was named for the lead character in Garth Stein’s book “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”


When Mark Kedrowski was getting ready to do his left-hand exercises, Enzo brought a tennis ball to him to throw in White Bear Lake on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Kedrowski, a pilot, was nearly killed in a plane crash seven years ago near the Lake Elmo airport. After more than 50 surgeries and a trial in Ramsey County, his attorneys won a $27.7 million verdict against Lycoming Engines (the designer and seller of the airplane's fuel pump) and Kelly Aerospace Power Systems. The verdict was reversed six months later. Now the Minnesota Court of Appeals will make a decision.



AT THE CRASH SCENE

Eyewitnesses started calling 911 as soon as they saw the yellow plane start to crash.

A nurse who works at Regions was on his way home from work when he saw the plane go down. “He was one of the first on the scene,” Len Kedrowski said. “He freed up Mark’s windpipe and cut off his straps because he was strapped in. When the plane crash-landed, he was on his back, laying flat.”

Len and Jean Kedrowski raced to Regions as soon as they got word. “The surgeon was telling us he couldn’t save the knee … and his wife, mother and sister were all crying hysterically,” Len Kedrowski said. “Finally I looked at him, and I said: ‘I can’t take anymore. … Save the knee,’ and I just walked out. He did a wonderful job, but he was ready to cut it off.”

That was news to Mark Kedrowski. “That would have been above the knee?” he asked his father during a recent interview at his apartment. “Man. I’m learning so many things still about my accident and injuries. It’s never-ending.”

Metal from the plane “scraped all the skin off the bone of his left leg,” Len Kedrowski said. “They found the ankle bone of his right foot in the mud alongside the plane, and they took it and cleaned it and pinned it in place through the heel.”

After two months at Regions, Kedrowski spent four months at Capitol View Transitional Care Center.

“I had more than 30 surgeries under general anesthesia,” Mark Kedrowski said. “I had to undergo others at the University of Minnesota and Fairview Southdale. My teeth had to be reconstructed; I had my ankles done at Fairview Southdale.”

He had two craniotomies to remove parts of his skull to relieve swelling of the brain; large scars crisscross his scalp. Doctors estimate he lost about 25 percent of his brain’s frontal lobe.



For 45 minutes a day, Mark Kedrowski does therapy with a Saebo Flex in White Bear Lake Sept. 6, 2017. "My hand closes but doesn't open so it's difficult if not impossible to put my fingers around anything," he said. "The Saebo Flex opens my hand up and then I can squeeze an object and release at will."



“I could talk, but my words were nonsensical,” Mark Kedrowski said. “I had to relearn how to swallow. I had to relearn how to talk, everything.”

Kedrowski, who was left-handed, also had to learn to write with his right hand. “Writing is still hard, but I can manipulate things with hashi, or chopsticks, so that’s a bonus,” he said.

Len Kedrowski, who served as his son’s guardian until 2012 and his conservator until 2015, still has power of attorney for him.

“He has the type of brain injury that won’t allow him to realize how injured he is,” Len Kedrowski said.

“Which is a blessing and a curse,” Mark Kedrowski said. “So many things are baffling to me. I have difficulty with numbers, and I have difficulty finding words, things like that, but my visual/spatial orientation is very good.”

Kedrowski uses a cane to walk short distances during the day, but a wheelchair the rest of the time.

He regularly gets acupuncture to treat depression and takes medication to treat seizures and involuntary muscle contractions in his left arm and leg.

“I take no pain medication,” he said. “I have some pain, but I live with it.”

When he is not taking care of his sons, he shops for groceries, rides his recumbent bike, watches TV, reads books and works out in the fitness center of his Boatwork Commons apartment complex.

Although he was raised Catholic, Kedrowski is now a member of the Eaglebrook Church in White Bear Lake.

“I fell off faith for a while, and then the accident further drifted me away because I was so angry about this whole thing,” he said. “Eventually, I went to church … and it got me thinking straight, thinking right. God is for me and with me. I got baptized last year at Eaglebrook. I have a strong faith life now, which is good.”

Mark Kedrowski nuzzles up with his therapy dog, Enzo. Large scars crisscross his scalp after two craniotomies to remove parts of his skull to relieve swelling of the brain. Doctors estimate he lost about 25 percent of his brain’s frontal lobe.



THE JURY’S VERDICT

Kedrowski was in Regions, being treated for a serious infection in his left leg, when the jury reached its verdict in February 2016.

“Of course, we were elated,” Len Kedrowski said. “Finally, five years after the crash, he was going to be compensated for his pain and suffering, as well as damages. I thought he could go on living without fear that he would not be able to afford his needed care nor provide for his family.”

The jury awarded $16 million for Kedrowski’s past and future pain and suffering, disfigurement, embarrassment and emotional distress; $7.4 million for past and future medical expenses; and $4.1 million for past and future loss of earnings.

Len Kedrowski said the judge’s reversal was a great injustice.

“The four weeks of an intense and very emotionally stressful trial apparently meant nothing,” Len Kedrowski said. “Mark and the defendant were judged by a panel of their peers, as they say, and the defendant was liable.”

His son’s attorneys — Steven Watters, Cortney LeNeave and Thomas Fuller — declined to be interviewed, but released a statement on Wednesday.

“The jury’s verdict was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law that they were obligated to apply,” the statement read. “We are still shocked that the judge nullified the jury’s hard work, which lasted nearly five weeks, and took away their thoughtful verdict. The appeal process is underway. We are confident the jury’s efforts will be vindicated and fully restored.”

The statement also referenced the NTSB report, which was not allowed at trial.



“The NTSB rushed to blame the pilot without uncovering key facts showing the fuel pump was defective … and failed to interview first-responder witnesses to whom the pilot said his plane lost engine power,” the attorneys said. “The NTSB also did not test for defects in the fuel system.”

Mark Kedrowski said he worries about providing for his three sons.

“I live my life, I’m happy, but I’m concerned, especially as everyone gets older — me and the kids — that I don’t have enough to meet their needs,” he said. “I basically have no money that they can rely on for college. Even little things, like sending them to camp, I cannot afford that or barely can afford that.”

If the Minnesota Court of Appeals rules in his favor, he plans to use the money to provide for his family and buy a wheelchair-accessible house and van.

The money would also be used to pay for extra care he will need as he gets older, Kedrowski said. Because of the brain injury, he is more susceptible to getting Alzheimer’s or dementia, he said.

“I’m not angry,” he said. “I’ve cried very little through this, but I have had a few breakdowns. I was sitting in my chair in my former office (at my house in Hugo) — I have a little windsurfer replica — and I was looking at that, and I envisioned in my mind what it would take to stand on that and windsurf again.

“I broke down because I will never do that again. I just cried and cried and cried.”

Original article and photo gallery:  http://www.twincities.com


Mark Kedrowski walks his 8-month-old therapy dog, Enzo, about four hours a day.

On a shelf above his dishwasher in his kitchen Mark Kedrowski has a framed Certificate of Participation for being in the 1999 Olympic Trials (for the 2000 Olympics) in windsurfing.


After more than 50 surgeries and a trial in Ramsey County, Mark Kedrowski won a $27.7 million verdict against Lycoming Engines (the designer and seller of the airplane's fuel pump) and Kelly Aerospace Power Systems. The verdict was reversed six months later. Now the Minnesota Court of Appeals will make a decision.



Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

http://registry.faa.gov/N333HK
  
NTSB Identification: CEN10FA519
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 03, 2010 in Lake Elmo, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/13/2011
Aircraft: KWECH GLASAIR RG SUPER 11S, registration: N333HK
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was departing in his experimental amateur-built airplane on a personal cross country flight. Witnesses in the area of the accident reported they observed the low-flying yellow airplane climb over a tree line, pass over the roadway they were on, encounter wind, and then bank. The airplane subsequently descended during the turn and impacted terrain in a field about 1/2 mile north of the departure runway, where it sustained substantial damage to its fuselage. The recorded wind was 19 knots gusting to 28 knots. The pilot sustained serious injuries and indicated that he did not recall anything regarding the accident flight. A postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or anomalies with the airframe or engine.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during takeoff with gusty wind conditions, which resulted in a collision with terrain.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 3, 2010, about 1605 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Kwech GLASAIR RG SUPER 11S airplane, N333HK, piloted by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage on impact with terrain during initial climbout from runway 32 (2,850 feet by 75 feet, asphalt) at Lake Elmo Airport (21D), near Lake Elmo, Minnesota. The personal flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. An instrument flight rules flight plan was on file and was activated. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The flight was originating from 21D at the time of the accident, and was destined for the Pine River Regional Airport, near Pine River, Minnesota.

Witnesses in the area of the accident reported to Washington County Sheriff’s Office representatives that they observed the low-flying yellow airplane. According to the witnesses, the airplane climbed over a tree line, passed over Manning Avenue, encountered wind, and banked. The airplane subsequently descended during the turn and impacted terrain in a field south of 40th Street and east of Manning Avenue.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector interviewed the pilot in a physical rehabilitation center. The pilot indicated that he did not recall anything regarding the accident flight.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The 39-year-old pilot held a FAA private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued to him on February 1, 2010, without limitations. An endorsement in his logbook showed that he completed a flight review on March 2, 2009 and that he completed an instrument competency check on September 3, 2009. The last entry in the pilot's logbook was dated December 18, 2009, and his total recorded flight time was 446.9 hours. A family member supplied a list of flights that the pilot was reported to have taken between January 6 and August 15, 2010.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

N333HK was an experimental amateur-built Kwech GLASAIR RG SUPER 11S, single-engine, low-wing, retractable tri-cycle landing gear, two-place airplane, with serial number 2313. A Lycoming IO-360-B1E engine, rated at 205-horsepower, with serial number L-11581-51A, custom built by DeMars Aero LTD, powered the airplane. 

Maintenance records for the airplane were requested and were not located.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1553, the recorded weather at the St. Paul Downtown Airport / Holman Field, near St Paul, Minnesota, about 240 degrees and 10 miles from the accident site, was: Wind 300 degrees at 19 knots gusting to 28 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky condition broken 3,400 feet, overcast 4,300 feet, temperature 16 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, altimeter 29.94 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage came to rest in a field about one half mile north of the departure runway. Pictures of the wreckage path showed that the propeller separated from the engine and the engine separated from the fuselage. The propeller and engine were found in the northwest portion of the debris field and the airframe in the southeast portion of the debris field. The propeller had chordwise abrasion and leading edge nicks on its blades. The fuselage exhibited deformation and crushing consistent with substantial damage. FAA Inspectors examined the wreckage and did not find any pre-impact anomalies.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The engine was recovered and sent to a local fixed base operator for a test run. Damaged parts that included a cracked oil sump, a magneto with a broken flange, a fuel injector line, and damaged ignition leads were replaced with exemplar parts. The engine was installed in a test cell and it was observed by the National Transportation Safety Board Investigator In Charge to be operational during the test run. The damaged magneto was mounted on a lathe and it produced spark when the lathe rotated.

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